League of Legends – Review
Those who have heard of League of Legends may be aware of its roots in the Defence of the Ancients (DotA) mod for Warcraft 3, in fact some of the development team is made up of people who worked on the mod. But since I feel there are enough reviews comparing League of Legends to DotA I will instead review the game on its own merits for the benefit of people who have never played a game of DotA, let alone heard of it.
So what is League of Legends? Well, I’d describe it as a genre mash of an RTS platform with an RPG core, with persistent online stats to create a form of a MMORTS Game. To expand further, you control a single character called a Champion. This Champion, like the archetypal RPG hero, has spells and special abilities at its disposal, which can be unlocked and improved by levelling up. In addition your Champion can also equip various character enhancing items bought with earned gold.
Set on an RTS style map, your objective is to destroy the enemy’s Nexus within their base with your Champion and the rest of your team, while protecting your own Nexus from the enemy Champions. Helping you and at the same time inhibiting your team are a series of towers along the routes or “lanes” that run from your base to the enemy’s. As well as this, there is a constant stream of friendly AI units called “creeps” that pour out your base and follow the lanes towards the enemy.
Its from the killing of the enemy’s stream of creeps that you earn gold and gain experience points to level up during the progress of a match In a way this is analogous to resources in other RTS. This “farming” of creeps is probably the most important part of the game strategy wise. Since the more you farm creeps, the more exp and gold you gain, which gives you more power and options when fighting for control of the map from enemy Champions. It is a simple enough idea but with a lot of depth that provides a fun, addictive but at times very frustrating form of game-play.
With the basic premise covered I’ll focus on the persistent online aspect of League of Legends. Based on a Free to Play model with micro-payments used to purchase additional Champions this Free MMORTS Game uses a robust online system that I was very impressed by. After downloading the free client you create a Summoner’s account that lets you play the full game online with a small and constantly changing selection of Champions for free.
After every match you are awarded experience and influence points. The former allows you to level up your Summoner account and thus unlock Summoner spells, Runes and Masteries. Summoner spells allow you to augment any Champion’s spell selection pre-match but you can only choose two. Masteries and Runes give permanent increases to the stats of any the Champions you use ingame. These persistent additions you use from match to match add a nice level of flexibility to how you play your Champion. Though confusing at first with the amount of options, its a nice touch and certainly adds to the longevity of the game.
The Free to Play model it uses naturally has to be supported by revenue somehow and this can sometimes lead to problems of who pays the most wins the most in other games. But League of Legends effortlessly avoids this by rotating what Champions from the 60 available are free to play. So if you do develop an attachment to a certain Champion you can buy them at what to me was a reasonable price and have them available whenever. If you also want to have a bit of variation in the fashion department of your chosen Champion you can also purchase additional costumes.
Now as mentioned at the beginning of the article this game stems from DotA and as such has sizeable population of players skilled at this genre. This may put off new players to LoL who are worried about facing the wrath of veteran players, who, are unforgiving in a game where a weak link in the team can cost a match. But once again I was impressed by the developers who not only put in decent match making based on the Elo Rating system but also added a Summoner level restriction of 20 for joining the big boys in ranked games. Many games could help themselves population wise by having more newbie protection like that. They have also gone to a lot of effort making a fair system for people to compete in, even going as far working out a balanced way of matching pre-made teams with random public players .
Moving on to the aesthetic qualities of League of Legends I found the graphics and effect animations a slightly bit dated compared to other games out there and it’s cartoon style, borrowed heavily from Warcraft 3, is not to everyone’s taste. Still I found what was going on clear and defined instead of looking like a mess of polygons like in some RTS games. The user interface, though of the old traditional variety, was solid and gave me all the info I needed with the bonus of well mapped hot-keys.
I only have a few criticisms, the first is that when first trying to play I discovered that European servers were having throttled connections due to server upgrades. This gave me less playing time than I would have liked. Hopefully it is something that will be sorted soon and won’t become a recurring problem. Also I found sometimes the pacing of the game to be somewhat slow, the matches I played lasted from 40 to 60 minutes and there were times where I felt the match was stagnating and could have ended sooner. But this could be just the level I’m playing at right now and in a few months it could be a lot different once I reach a higher skill level. As I’ve mentioned the game is fun but its also frustrating. Getting out played by another champion and being sent back to spawn, while watching the timer go down can lead to a lot of “Shoulda done this instead” type of thinking. Then comes just sheer frustration if you keep getting owned by the same player. Same can be said if you feel one of your team-mates isn’t quite pulling their weight as it were and is costing you the match.
In summary I would recommend League of Legends to anyone looking for something fresh to play in the MMORTS Games genre, especially if you have a bunch of friends too and want something team based. Its definitely a game with depth and would appeal to someone who likes spending as much time thinking up strats as they do playing. Overall I enjoyed playing League of Legends and wouldn’t mind doing a follow up review in 6 months time when I’ve had a chance to explore the higher levels of the game.
by Zac Dai